Young space pioneers at the CanSat competition. © OHB / Arne Winterboer

From the self-made satellite to the OHB team

How the technology group arouses young people’s enthusiasm for space  

There that can be no doubt that it’s never too early to start something new. And that applies equally to things that are the size of a soft drink can. What do space, encouraging young talents and a soft drink can have in common? The answer is the CanSat competition which OHB is supporting again this year again for the fifth time. From September 17 to 21, selected teams of school students from all over Germany will be meeting in the space city of Bremen to demonstrate their miniature satellites that are the size of an ordinary can of soft drink. The winners will be selected by a panel of aerospace experts including representatives from OHB of course.

We have short-listed ten teams out of 20 applications who have come up with some really great ideas for their mission. The panel base their decision on the underlying scientific approach.

OHB engineer Hartmut Claus

“We have short-listed ten teams out of 20 applications who have come up with some really great ideas for their mission. The panel base their decision on the underlying scientific approach,” says OHB engineer Hartmut Claus, who is also a lecturer at technical educational institutions as well as being a member of the panel again for the fifth time. The two teams from schools in Bremen, one from Alexander-von-Humboldt-Gymnasium and one from Europaschule, are among the contestants.

The primary mission is the same for all teams: the satellite must be able to measure air pressure and temperature. Creativity is required for the secondary mission. This year, one team wants to connect the CanSat with the Internet via a ground station, while another one wants to measure the concentration of fine dust in order to analyze the distribution of dust particles in the atmosphere.

To ensure that the teams remain grounded, the organizing team has come up with a couple of highlights in the program. For one thing, there will be a visit by a VIP. An ESA astronaut will be motivating the teams either personally or via a live video link. The identity of the astronaut (who knows, perhaps Astro Alex will also be sending some welcome words?) is still top secret.

This will be followed by the test of fire on Wednesday, September 19 at the Rotenburg/Wümme airfield, where the school students will be presenting their mini-satellites to the panel for technical inspection and then launching them on board a genuine solid-matter rocket. The results will then be presented to OHB on the next day.

In addition to providing staff for the panel and the organizing team, OHB is also making a financial contribution to the CanSat competition. This commitment to the competition is just one of many measures that OHB has been actively taking for a number of years to encourage young talents.

We prepare students to optimum effect for the career world and invite them to apply for a permanent position.

Ulrich Uffelmann, head of training at OHB

In September, for example, it will be launching a work-study program in the field of IT application development for the first time. In addition to the tuition blocks at the university and vocational center, the young people will be able to work on two technical projects: in robotics, they will be programming Lego robots and in satellite systems they will be programming their own small satellite. “We prepare students to optimum effect for the career world and invite them to apply for a permanent position,” says Ulrich Uffelmann, head of training at OHB.

In addition, lecturers from OHB provide tuition at two educational institutions: Technisches Bildungszentrum Mitte in Bremen and Ökumenisches Gymnasium (ÖG) in the Bremen suburb of Oberneuland. In fact, it has signed a partnership agreement with ÖG covering various aspects of technology and research. Grade 10 students at this school can select aerospace/aeronautics as an upper-stage subject in lessons provided by OHB staff. They are also able to take part in internships and other activities.

Of course, only the stars know whether or not any of the students participating in these activities will actually end up working for OHB five to ten years from now – but that is what makes it all so fascinating. And why should it not be possible for everything to have started with something the size of a soft drink can?

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